Nadia Podoroska, Roland Garros semifinalist: the award for perseverance and the mirror of Sabatini

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Rosario, a sensation in the Parisian Grand Slam, will look for a place in the grand final this Thursday when she plays against the Polish Iga Swiatek. If she wins, she will go further in Paris than the greatest of all time in Argentine tennis.

Nadia Podoroska became the first Argentine to reach the semifinals of Roland Garros, the mecca of brick dust, in 16 years. His adventure in Paris forced him to dust off his memory and seek help in the history books of women’s tennis. And all roads inevitably lead to Gabriela Sabatini, the best of all time.

Podoroska is the fifth Argentine to tread the semifinals in Paris. It is the first since Paola Suárez, who in 2004 lost against Russian Elena Dementieva. The pioneer was Raquel Giscafré in 1974, who was defeated by the Soviet Olga Mozorova. Then came Sabatini and all his history. And in 2002 it was the turn of Clarisa Fernández, in the solo hit of her career, whose fairy tale was cut short by the American Venus Williams.

The turns of life now place the 23-year-old player – who until a few weeks ago walked through second-order tournaments trying to raise money to pay for her career – before the historic opportunity to become the first Argentine finalist in the Grand Slam of the French capital.

It is that not even Sabatini, who played five semifinals in Paris, managed to overcome that round. Gaby, with all her talent and XXL charisma, came across some of the best rackets in the world: Chris Evert (1985), Steffi Graf (1987 and 1988) and Monica Seles (1991 and 1992). To overcome the icon, of course, Nadia will have to beat the Polish Iga Swiatek this Thursday, 19 years old and also a newcomer in these instances of definitions.

If she succeeds, she will become the second Argentine to advance to the definition of a Grand Slam. It is that only Sabatini played late in a great. She did it three times, most recently her defeat at Wimbledon against Graf in 1991, when she came within inches of being number one in the world. It was the season that followed his historic victory at the US Open against the German, his sports nemesis, who had also defeated him in the final in New York in 1987.

But Podoroska is not checking the history books. She knows that all this can only be a distraction, convinced that the recipe for her success, which has led her to win 43 games this season and jump 60 places in the ranking, to go from 131 to enter the ‘ top-50 ‘, he is right in looking no further than his racket.

With humility and work, the Rosario became one of the sensations of the tournament, experiencing a rebirth of Argentine tennis, with the also historic qualification of Diego Schwartzman for the semifinals for the first time in his career.

Podoroska says that she feels “one hundred percent Argentine” beyond the surname she inherited from her Ukrainian grandparents and that earned her the imprecise, though indelible, nickname “La Rusa.” And also despite the decision to base in Alicante, Spain, to be closer to opportunities.

Nadia is an excellent example of the talent that is often hidden by the lack of opportunities, by the absence of projects, development plans and sponsors who are committed to the long term. And also for that pinch of good fortune that you always need to get a close-up that allows you to stand out from the peloton. Because it is known that it is not enough to be good.

That is why perhaps she does not stop repeating that her feat in Paris, although the adventure does not go beyond the semifinals, should serve as a springboard for others, so that, like her, they fight for the dream of going far. Because Podoroska is not the product of a plan. Is a self made woman That he never lowered his arms when there was plenty of reason to lower them.

This is how she managed to overcome potholes, injuries that did not give her peace, difficult moments that left her on the edge of the precipice, a push from leaving everything, only supported by her own confidence and by a handful of people, with her family at the forefront, that he never stopped believing in her.

She named one of them without naming him after winning the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals, someone who should have supported her when things were difficult. Because Podoroska, who won gold at the Pan American Games in Lima and thus the right to participate in the postponed Olympic Games in Tokyo -something that she had to validate by climbing to the top 100-, went through hardships that left her on the brink of not being able to subsist on tennis , a situation that is now behind him, with a guaranteed profit of $ 500,000, double what he had deposited in his bank account until he began to play qualifying in Paris.

Her journey through the desert is far behind, a wrist injury she suffered in 2018 and that kept her away from the circuit for eight months. He thought the worst. His career had turned into a nightmare. But he chose to start over. He left his lifelong coach, decided to move to Spain and was also inclined to continue dreaming.

Alicante was the place chosen to be close to the tournaments in Europe. He did this by counting every peso in his pocket, measuring every meal, every expense. Podoroska knows what it’s like to fight her in this environment: just a couple of months ago she was able to rent a small apartment.

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